David Noton Photography / Alamy

The best travel destinations to visit before you die!

Find out about the places that top travel photographers recommend you visit. You may have heard of some of these, but there are some real gems and surprises too…

How many of us are panicking about not getting to see all the amazing landscapes and kingdoms on the planet? What about missing out on all the engagement with vibrant cultures that are available to us?  In the quest to identify the must go to destinations we’ve enlisted the help of some of the most adventurous travel photographers on Alamy who pay homage to their favourite destinations.

Plitvice Lakes National Park – a Heaven in Turquoise and Green

Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia.
© Inge Johnsson / Alamy

Inge Johnsson eloquently describes Plitvice Lakes as an “amazing and almost unreal place, paradisaical, and with a color range from green to turquoise. Essentially a “staircase” of connected lakes, with innumerable waterfalls between them, it offers unmatched photographic opportunities for any lover of natural beauty. It’s a good idea to visit during other times than peak season in July and August. However, if you find yourself in the park in the summer, and have made the wise decision to stay near the park, you can beat the crowds and have a sublime morning walk around the lakes and waterfalls if you arrive when it opens. That is what I did on my second day at Plitvice, and ended up quickly filling my media cards with wonderful landscape shots in great early morning light and with the park to myself.”

Patagonia – epic Mountainous Magnificence

Los Cuernos towering above Salto Grande and Lago Nordenskjold, Torres del Paine, Chilean Patagonia
© Inge Johnsson / Alamy

For a more wild landscape, Inge is mesmerized by the iconic mountain peaks of Patagonia – in particular the Chilean part of Patagonia. “To stand at the shores of Lago Nordenskiold and behold the enormous peaks of Los Cuernos so close that it seems you can almost touch them brings chills down most people’s spine. And that is just the beginning as there are ravaging waterfalls, fantastic wildlife, and a truly wild landscape. Patagonia is one of those few truly epic destinations to which both travelers and photographers alike want to come back time after time. Patagonia is in the southern hemisphere and is best visited in the fall, around March to April. There are enough hiking and landscape opportunities to fill a lifetime, and put your wide angle lenses to good use.

The Galapagos – one of the most pristine places on Earth…

Portrait of a Marine Iguana on Galapagos
© Kjersti Joergensen / Alamy

…that’s according to Norwegian travel photographer Kjersti Jørgensen whose 6 works were included in an exhibition in Russia entitled “100 wonders of the world”.  She rates it so highly because it is where she perceives that “animals and humans live together in harmony and has wildlife that is unique and can only be found on these island habitats.” In a kaleidoscope of memories Kjersti muses on  the “beautiful white beaches where marine iguanas lay lazily in the sun. On my way to Bartolomé Island, mobula rays were leaping from the sea. In a single minute, just off the island of Isabela, I encountered sea lions, green turtles, Galapagos penguins and eagle rays.”

Oneonta Gorge – a Shrangi La in Oregon

Out on a limb, a tired hiker relaxes amongst one of the dramatic canyons in the Columbia River Gorge.
© Chase Guttman / Alamy

Chase Guttman has been to date lauded with winning Young Travel Photographer of the Year 2010, the first American to do so in his age category and also first prize in National Geographic’s 2011 Photography Contest for Kids.  For Chase the magnificence of Oneonta Gorge stays with him.

“This is one destination that simply took my breath away. This moss-coated ravine in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is only accessible by wading through bone-chilling cold waters. The trek brings you to a hidden Shangri La complete with a dramatic ribbon of falling water and a scene that is unlike anything I had ever seen before.”

Swaziland – exceptional culture and wildlife

A local village chief presides over a rural community in his traditional garb.
© Chase Guttman / Alamy

Chase continues – “Swaziland is another destination that is close to my heart. The country’s distinct indigenous culture and sprawling wildlife reserves are practically carved from a travel photographer’s dreams. From traditionally dressed tribal chiefs to rare white rhinos, the nation is a wealth of photographic and experiential opportunities.”

Iran – not the axis of evil

The Stained Glass Windows Of Tabatabaei Historical House, Isfahan Province, Kashan, Iran. Image shot 2015. Exact date unknown.

Eric Lafforgue admits that “it may seem strange to go to this country as it has one of the worst images in the media!” But he continues “forget it, people are the most welcoming in the world, the Persian culture is rich from percolating for thousands of years. The country hosts very different cultures, like the Kurd people in the West, you’ll see men dressed with baggy trousers and women without a veil, an exception in Iran!  The road from Theran to Shiraz goes through many UNESCO sites including Kashan and Isfahan. You’ll need a lot of time to visit all the incredible mosques and palaces. The recent negotiation with the USA will open the country up, so visit this area soon before it becomes a trendy destination!”

Eritrea  fascinating and diverse tribal cultures

St Joseph's Cathedral In The Sunset, Asmara, Eritrea

Eric adds this tiny country from the Horn of Africa as a must see destination despite it being under a dictatorship and many people are departing from it as refugees. Despite this, he says it has so much to offer photographers. “It has a mix of architecture. For example its capital city Asmara is a living museum of modernism and art-deco Italian architecture from the 30’s to 60’s. Tribes – you can count 9 – include the gipsies of the desert, the Rashaidas and the Afar people. There is desert and beaches in the Dalhak archipelago.

Other highlights include the old Ottoman town of Massawa, a unique testimony of the Turkish experience, with houses resembling a little fort and  giving an impression to being on a movie set from Hollywood. Keren and its Monday market with thousands of camels, and all the men wearing turbans and white tunics and the women in colorful clothes. On top of all this the Eritreans are a very welcoming people and older locals are keen to banter in Italian even if you’re not Italian!”

Paris – prêt pour Paris

Tricolour at Arc de Triomphe Paris France
© David Noton Photography / Alamy

David Noton’s favourite place is one he’s visited probably at least 20 times. “There’s no doubt in my mind; Paris is my favourite city. Why? Je ne sais pas, there’s just something about the place; the light, the wide open spaces, the boulevards, the river, the monuments, the cafes, the style, the history. Maybe it’s because as a photography student all those years ago I was inspired by the great French photo-journalists of the mid 20th century; Cartier-Bresson, Lartique, Doisneau, Brassai. Whatever, it’s gotten under my skin, to the extent that rarely a year goes by without grabbing a few days there.

But that in itself raises a problem; coming up with new ways to photograph Paris just gets harder and harder. After so many visits it’s tempting to think I’ve done it all, but of course that’s nonsense, no photographer could in several lifetimes. Nonetheless I find it vital to have clear, fresh ideas of how I’m going to approach my next Parisian shoot before boarding Eurostar. The better the ideas the better the end results will be. To that end in mind I’ve a shoot planned on the Pont des Arts; a 180 degree panorama of the River Seine featuring both the Ile de la Cite and the Eiffel Tower, in B&W, and featuring models. Tricky; but who ever said this game was easy? And after that I aim to make a picture including one feature that definitely was not around in Cartier-Bresson’s day; love locks. Well, pourquoi pas?”

Plus, there are some amazing accommodations options which might even shoot opportunities in themselves.

Mui Ne, Vietnam – on the Beach

Hoan Kiem Lake Hanoi Vietnam
© David Noton Photography / Alamy

David continues – “I had a photography college lecturer whose advice has stuck with me through the decades; bend the knees. Sound advice, not just for skiing but more importantly for my photography ever since; getting down low can often open up a whole new world of photographic opportunities. Well I’m certainly bending the knees now as I squat on the beach in Mui Ne by this lady who is shelling sea food. She will spend all day squatting like this; my joints are screaming already after just ten minutes. Or has it been 30? Long enough, but the picture is coming to me.

I move over to where another two ladies are busy peeling prawns. The sand on the beach has long been submerged under generations of discarded shells; it crunches underfoot but the texture of it side-lit by the setting sun is beautiful. I hover over my chosen lady, admiring her somewhat colourful fashion sense. I doubt it would catch on in Paris or Milan, but then again we’re a world away from such catwalks. With the zoom at its widest I’m hovering directly over her, and yet again it’s as if I’m invisible. I’m using this lens to incorporate the graphic shapes of their conical hats, the beach and the fishing boats into my frame, setting the scene of Mui Ne as best I can. The hats not only feature as strong composition elements, they also serve as icons locating the picture squarely and surely in Vietnam. I crouch even closer, remembering another nugget of advice from the same lecturer; if a picture’s not working you’re not close enough.

The sun dips below the horizon, all too quickly as ever in the tropics, and its game over. I ride back along the coast road to our hotel in the hills overlooking the beach. I cast one last glance over the sea of conical hats under which the ladies are still squatting over their piles of crustaceans. Vietnam; it’s all about the hats. Tonight; Vietnamese yellow mango seafood curry. I love it here. It’s my fourth time in Vietnam, but I doubt it will be my last.”

Oman – diverse landscapes

Nizwa Market, Oman
© Jacob Maentz / Alamy

Jacob Maentz, a travel and documentary photographer based in Cebu, Philippines, is included in ChilliSauces top 100 travel photographers of 2014 and chooses Oman and the Philippines as his top destinations to see.

“Oman is a wonderful place to get an off-road vehicle and explore this country’s diverse landscapes. You can pull your vehicle over and camp anywhere that suits you allowing you to spend long days taking photos. Deserts, wadi’s, mountains, and coastal towns. The Omani people are very friendly and hospitable and you will find it’s one of the safest places to travel around. There is a real authentic feel about Oman and its people and it’s a fantastic place to photograph.”

Philippines – wonderland

An Agta man walking in the shallow reefs on the coast of Isabela looking for fish and octopus
© Jacob Maentz / Alamy

Jacob continues – “For people photography this archipelago is a wonderland. Most Filipinos love being in front of the camera and you may have a hard time not getting a smiling person. Aside from the welcoming and warm-hearted people the islands have some amazing locations. You could spend a lifetime visiting all of the islands and each one has a different flavour. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find some amazing cultural practices and customs that many people have never heard of.”

California Coastline – where home is

California, Oakland, Jack London Square
© david sanger photography / Alamy

David Sanger has also been included in the top 100 travel photographer in 2014 from Chillisauce and is a seasoned traveler of 20 years.  His recommended destinations include South Africa and also his home location of California and after you read his perspective you’ll know why!

“Perhaps I’m partial to California’s Pacific Coast because I live here, but for me it is a never-ending source of delight. So many ecosystems have formed along the coast, Redwood forests in Humboldt County in the far north, rocky cliffs (and a funky hippy culture) in Mendocino, rolling hills in Sonoma, sandy windswept dunes in Point Reyes, tiny beaches opposite and around the Golden Gate, swooping fog filled inlets of the Big Sur Coast and then on south to the beach lands of Santa Barbara, the offshore Channel Islands, and the surf culture of the LA beaches. It’s all there. And yet beyond the best known tourist destinations you can wander around and find new vistas, hidden beaches, remote trails, solitude and serenity. All you need is a car, a camera and time…”

South Africa – National Parks and much more

South Africa, Helderberg, Vineyards and mountains, Vergelegen Wine Estate
© david sanger photography / Alamy

“There are the National Parks to be sure, but there’s much much more to South Africa, especially around Cape Town. Every time I go there I see something new. From the fertile wine country around Stellenbosch, to the desert-like Karoo and the Bushman culture of the Western Cape, from penguins on the shoreline at Boulder Beach to the unique flora of the Cape Peninsula and climbing/hiking the rough cliffs of Table Mountain. The light around Cape Town is marvelous, clear and eerily crisp.”

Botswana – pure Wilderness

A lone Baobab on the edge of Kubu Island, Botswana.
© Ben McRae / Alamy

Ben McRae, based in Australia, is an ocean lifeguard which affords him plenty of time off to follow his passion of photographing Africa. He cannot recommend Botswana enough.  “A safe country that in my eyes cannot be compared to any other African country for its pure wilderness and animals. Sandy tracks snake their way across the country offering a lead to hidden surprises. There is no other show on earth that compares to the Chobe riverfront of a hot dry season afternoon where hundreds of elephants come to drink. Botswana also offers hidden pockets away from the full on safari operators that some countries are plagued with.

Northern Brazil – breathtaking sand dunes

A woman rides a board down a sand dune at Dunas Tatajuba, just outside of Jericoacoara, Brazil.
© Matthew Wakem / Alamy

Matthew Wakem is often asked what his favourite destination has been during his career as a travel and lifestyle photographer. “While I have had amazing times everywhere I have traveled for work, the one that stands out for me is a trip I took for Conde Nast Traveler in 2007 to the Northern coast of Brazil. There have fortunately been many times in my life where I have seen a place in a magazine or on TV and have said to myself I need to go there one day and have found myself in the exact spot years or months later. This happened with Northern Brazil after watching the amazing movie The House of Sand or Casa de Areia as it is called in Portuguese. It’s based around a family that moves to the remote desert like part of Brazil called Lencois Maranhenses.

My journey involved a 600 mile off road adventure along open coast from the city of Sao Luis to the capital city of Fortaleza along the Northeast coast. I travelled by Land Rover on a highway of sand along deserted beaches. I then went by boat up the tropical deltas of the Rio Preguiças to remote locations that sat between the river and ocean. The highlight of my journey was a sunrise airplane ride over miles of breathtaking sand dunes and seasonal fresh water lakes of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.  A place of such beauty that I felt like I was visiting a remote planet.

Our journey ended at the small fishing village of Jericoacoara a hippie / windsurfing mecca in Ceara, Brazil. A place where the roads are all paved with sand and until just 20 years ago there were no roads, no electricity, no phones, no TV’s, no newspapers, and money was rarely used. Sitting on the top of Sunset Dune at the end of the day looking across the ocean as sand boarders swept down the dune is a moment I will never forget.”

Well I don’t know about you but might start saving for some trips – Plitvice Lakes National Park, Oneonta Gorge and Iran are now definitely on my list!  Let us know if you have been to a destination that has captivated you and is not be missed.